By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City’s bars, restaurants and retail shops are typically jammed with vacationers on summer weekends, but weekdays can be much slower, business owners acknowledge.
Hoping to fill the void, the Sea Isle Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization is developing a strategy to draw more visitors to town by tapping day-trippers in the South Jersey market.
The Chamber plans to use social media to reach more people who live in Cumberland, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties – areas that are within a relatively easy hour or 90-minute drive to Sea Isle.
“We’re trying to be more active with Facebook, Instagram and our website,” Chamber President Christopher Glancey explained of the marketing campaign.
Just two months ago, the Chamber revealed plans to collaborate with the campgrounds in the neighboring mainland communities for shuttle service to bring more of their customers to Sea Isle for day trips.
Final details are still being worked out for the schedules and routes for the shuttles, Glancey said. The Chamber has already etched out tentative plans to run 13-passenger shuttles seven days a week from late June to Labor Day. Tickets would cost $2 each way.
However, the Chamber also wants to cast a wider net to attract visitors. That’s why it plans to focus on the day-trippers who would come to Sea Isle on the quieter weekdays from the surrounding South Jersey counties.
“We really want to make an effort to get people on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays because we really see it slowing down here for business,” said Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant on Park Road in Sea Isle’s historic Fish Alley neighborhood.
During a discussion at the Chamber’s monthly board meeting on March 12, Monichetti suggested that Sea Isle should take cues from Ocean City’s tourism commercial, which features the beaches, amusement rides, surfing and other attractions in that resort.
“I’m just looking for an angle to get people here,” Monichetti told the Chamber’s board members. “We need to get people here for the businesses.”
Glancey said the Chamber is devoting more money this year for a social media campaign to showcase Sea Isle’s attractions as well as to reach out to day-trippers in the South Jersey region.
Separately, the Chamber also has plans for a TV commercial and a series of web commercials starting in 2020 to promote tourism. Some of the web commercials, though, might be launched as early as this summer, Glancey noted.
At their meeting, the Chamber’s board members also discussed other possible ways to draw more visitors, including working with the city to offer free parking during one day of the week.
Monichetti suggested that Tuesdays might be a good day for free parking because those days are normally slow for business. He dubbed the idea “Free Parking Tuesdays.”
According to Monichetti, the Chamber should consider possibly subsidizing free parking on one day of the week to compensate for the revenue the city would lose.
Sea Isle spokeswoman Katherine Custer declined to comment whether the city might even consider lifting the parking charge on Tuesdays or any other days as an extra incentive for visitors.
For the past 25 years or so, Sea Isle has had beach tag-free Wednesdays to attract budget-conscious day-trippers.
Custer said the free beach days are particularly popular with school groups and summer camps that are looking to save some money.
“We think it’s a great way to enjoy and experience Sea Isle’s beaches for free,” she said. “I can say it’s a popular day for many people.”